Great timing for Fox’s Investor Day last Thurs, with Fox Sports 1‘s launch date happening this weekend. For a few more details go here (sub required), but the programmer was still basking in the glory of its golf coup. Fox announced last Wed a 12-year deal that will bring the US Open, US Women’s Open and US Senior Open championships to Fox broadcast and Fox Sports 1 beginning in ’15. NBC, ESPN and Golf Channel will lose the major tourneys.
"There is actually limited opportunity to acquire new product until 2017," Fox Sports co-pres Eric Shanks said during an Investor Day presentation. "By diversifying content, we’re no longer relying" on a single rights deal to be successful. And just so we’re clear once and for all, there will be a Fox Sports 2 (currently Fuel TV) at the "outset" of Fox Sports 1, Shanks said. UFC, MLB, NASCAR, Soccer, NFL, USGA, CFB and college sports will be represented in programming, with more than 4800 hours of live programming planned for the year. FS1 is expected to be profitable by ’16.
On the RSN side, "we’re looking forward to stepping up our interest in YES Network, which we believe will be an excellent addition to our portfolio of RSNs," co-pres Randy Freer said. News Corp acquired a 49% equity stake valued at about $3bln last fall. It has the right after 3 years to acquire an additional stake that could bring its ownership to 80%. Plans are in place for that to happen no later than Dec 2015.
What about possible consolidation among MVPDs, which is viewed as a way to combat programming costs? Even if it happens, Chase Carey thinks "content has the winning hand." He said Fox will continue to work to move retrans consent for Fox broadcast closer to what it believes the network is worth. FX Nets CEO John Landgraf said FXX (launches Sept 2) is still expected to be in 70mln homes at launch. He talked up FX owning the bulk of its original series, saying it has not only been a financial boon but a key strategic advantage as nonlinear, TVE service FX Now gears up for launch.
Fox News chief Roger Ailes provided the lunchtime entertainment, fielding questions and delivering friendly jibes to interviewer/Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto. While CNN has seen some ratings growth, Ailes said he’s not concerned. "In the first and second quarters, there was news fatigue after the election," he said, saying that while Fox News ratings dipped a little, they’ve come back up and the net stays in the top 5 cable nets. He remains confident in Fox Business, noting that it is profitable, even though growing the channel is taking some time.
Ailes gave Geraldo Rivera some flak for his semi-nude selfie on Twitter, but praised him for rising to the occasion in even the most dangerous situations. "Naked pictures when you’re drunk is still stupid," he added. The Fox News chief dodged questions about retirement, giving out his to-do list. "I want to save democracy for the next generation. I want to prove I can get to 100. I want to be on ‘Dancing with the Stars,’" he said. "My near-term plans are to put my competitors out of business completely."
Ed Note: This story originally appeared in CableFAX Daily. Go here to subscribe.